This month, Textron subsidiary Airborne Tactical Advantage Company has been supporting F-35Cs from Eglin AFB’s 43rd Fighter Squadron during a deployment to Naval Air Station Key West to help sharpen their Dissimilar Air Combat Training skills.
Providing contract adversary air OPFOR airframes, ATAC brought Mirage F1s with them to the Keys, still wearing very nicely preserved French Armee de L’air camouflage.
The company bought 63 former French Air Force Mirage F1B, F1CT, and F1CR fighters; 6 million assorted spare parts, and 150 spare Atar 9K50 engines for a total value of €25 million in 2017. Last September, they pulled down a contract to use their aircraft as training assets against the USAF in seven locations.
An F-1 Mirage with Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) takes off from Boca Chica Field to provide adversary air support for training. 20 August 2021 U.S. Navy photo by Danette Baso Silvers
Running around in sometimes cranky obsolete high-performance jets can sometimes be hazardous. One of ATAC’s Mirages had an “incident” earlier this year at Tyndall.
They also do “red air” for the Navy.
Check out this trio of an ATAC Mk 58 Hunter, a former IDF Kfir C-2, and a Navy F-35C.
The Hunter dates to 1959 while the Kfir is a 1979 model. Meanwhile, the F-35C is Navy NJ-121 (BuNo 169160) of VFA-101 “Grim Reapers.” The Reapers were the Navy’s Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) based at Eglin until they shuttered the unit in May 2019, moving the mission to NAS Lemoore’s VFA-125.
Via the Fighter Collection
Most are familiar with the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk, the classic shark-mouthed single-seat fighter of early WWII that flew to eternal fame with the Flying Tigers in China. However, more than 1,100 Mohawk/Hawk 75/P-36 aircraft, which look very similar but aren’t, were made in the late 1930s.
Curtiss P-36 in the pre-war USAAF clothes
They saw lots of service in the war from India to Finland (Finnish ace Kyösti Karhila scored 12¼ of his 32¼ victories in the Hawk) and Sumatra to Northern France. Postwar, they flew in Latin America through the 1950s.
One of the very last airworthy H-75s is owned by the Fighter Collection in Duxford. One of some 300 airframes ordered by France before the war, arriving in Europe in 1940. The plane’s squadron later tangled with RAF and USN aircraft over Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco in 1942 and survived to tell the tale, later being recovered in storage in 1995.
It flies today with Armée de l’Air standard three-tone scheme, with her Groupe de Combat 11/5 markings on her port, and the Lafayette Escadrille Sioux Indian head motif.
Former Armée de l’Air Dassault Mirage F1s could be a familiar sight over U.S. skies near aggressor bases
As noted by Flight Global, Textron subsidiary Airborne Tactical Advantage Company just picked up 63 former French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) Mirage F1B, F1CT, and F1CR for dissimilar air combat training and aggressor squadron purposes for the U.S. Air Force. The deal included 150 engines and a host of other gear the French weren’t using anymore.
“Textron is planning to retrofit the F1s with modern avionics systems such as digital radio frequency memory jamming capabilities and upgraded radars,” ATAC chief executive Jeffrey Parker says. “The requirements we’re seeing the air force describe clearly include a modern radar such as AESA or a highly capable mechanically scanned array radar.”
A tip-top dual purpose strike fighter when introduced in 1973, over 720 F1s were fielded with the French using the lion share (246) and the Ecuadorian, Greek, Iraqi (the Exocet attack on the USS Stark), Libyan, Moroccan, South African, and Spanish getting smaller quantities, though almost all have retired them.
The French disbanded the last squadron flying the F1 in 2014 and today only Gabon flies a few surplus Armée de l’Air jets, and the Libyans have a handful the French are upgrading while the Iranians are thought to have about a dozen operational F1BQs and F1EQs that escaped Desert Storm by skipping over the border in 1991.